The Irish Government has been accused of “double standards” for not referring Israel to the International Criminal Court.
Sinn Fein brought a private members bill to the Irish Parliament on Tuesday evening as the conflict in the Middle East continues.
Sinn Fein TD Matt Carthy opened the debate by quoting from two recent accounts given by doctors based in Gaza, and described a rise in the number of children being classified as WCNSF – wounded child, no surviving family.
He urged government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court “in response to cries from Gaza”.
Mr Carthy said his party’s motion “sets out simply that Ireland should use our voice by referring these heinous acts to the International Criminal Court”.
He blasted a counter motion from government, saying it “doesn’t set out a single argument as to why it can’t make this referral, only the excuses as to why it won’t”.
The counter motion, in the name of Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin, condemns the attack by Hamas on the people of Israel on October 7.
It also deplored the “escalation of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since then, particularly the killing of innocent men, women and children, the taking of hostages, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the mass displacement of civilians”.
It notes that the ICC announced the opening of an investigation into the situation in Palestine, including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in March 2021, which will cover recent events.
Mr Carthy told the Dail on Tuesday evening: “A referral to the ICC can be made by Ireland and it should be made. There should be no excuses.
“The Sinn Fein motion should be adopted unanimously as a response from Ireland to the obscenity that is WCNSF – wounded child, no surviving family.”
Speaking for government, Sean Fleming, a Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said ministers had earlier that day decided to make a voluntary contribution of three million euro to the ICC.
He said that contribution is in response to the “urgent need of the court”.
“Ireland is a consistent and strong supporter of the court, and of its independence and impartiality,” he told the Dail.
“The International Criminal Court has confirmed unambiguously that the ICC has jurisdiction over the current situation that we see unfolding.”
He said said a current investigation into the situation in Palestine – including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – covers war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr Fleming also told the Dail he was “surprised” at the text of the motion proposed, saying for Ireland to refer the situation to the ICC would “simply repeat an action that is already has been taken”.
“It would not progress the ongoing investigation any further. It is not clear to me therefore what the intention of this motion,” he said.
He added that to make the referral “would serve no legal purpose”, and “could also be viewed by some as attempting to politicise the court”.
“As such the government is instead tabling a counter motion … (which) clearly expresses Ireland’s unwavering support for the vital work of the International Criminal Court.”
Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews accused the government of “double standards”, pointing to Ireland’s action in 2022, joining with 37 other countries to refer a case against Russia to the court.
“The hypocrisy is absolutely clear,” he said.
Voting of the motion and government counter motion is set to take place on Wednesday.
Earlier, speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dail, Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris described the situation as “the most serious and important of issues of our time and in our world today”
He said he is proud of the stance of the Irish Government and that Mr Martin travelled on Tuesday evening to Egypt, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
He said Mr Martin will “continue that diplomatic work, that call for peace, that quest for a ceasefire and crucially the protection for Irish citizens trapped in Gaza”.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that what Hamas did was despicable, we’ve all condemned it, it deserves absolute condemnation, it was an act of terror on the people of Israel … of course Israel had a right to defend itself but that original right to defend itself has now become in my view a war on children – and you cannot build peace on the mass graves of children,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that a country has become blinded by rage.”
The Irish Parliament will debate a motion by the Social Democrats on Wednesday evening calling for sanctions to be taken against Israel.